Spring Vacation 2023 – Day 4


I went to bed at about 2:00am after my unsuccessful bid to reschedule our flight(s) home.  Sunday was now going to be all day at Disney and then straight to the airport for our 12:50am flight.

We were up at 6:00 and showered and packed up our stuff.  We left at 7:00 and drove to Anaheim where we met up with Kevin.  We got through security and made it to the park entrance at about 7:45 and they were already letting people in.

Disneyland!  I have been to the Magic Kingdom and other parks in Florida several times over the years, but I had never been to Disneyland (or California Adventure) until today.  I was looking forward to seeing the “original” and comparing and contrasting it with Walt Disney World (which will be a separate blog post).  I was not disappointed.  The entire operation runs like clockwork, of course.  But what is most striking is that Disneyland is in the middle of a city, but you have no idea that that’s where you are once you are in the park.  If you’re really paying attention in certain areas you might catch a glimpse of a taller building outside the park.  I heard a siren once, but only because I was near the edge of the park.

Here’s a list of the rides we were able to experience (in order):

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
    • The wait for this was only 15 minutes!
  • Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run
    • The wait for this was also only 15 minutes.  Probably because we were there so early.
  • Thunder Mountain
    • There was no wait to speak of.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • About a 15 minute wait.
  • Haunted Mansion
    • 15 minutes
  • Splash Mountain (we thought it had been closed (or “cancelled”) and were pleasantly surprised to find it open!)
    • There was practically no line for this, and the one that was there moved quickly.
  • Disneyland Express (train)
    • TRAIN!
  • It’s A Small World
    • The original, and one of my favorites.  Once inside, it seems basically the same as the Florida version.  But the outside is incredible!
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
    • A Disneyland original.  We went on it just because of that.  It doesn’t exist anywhere else.
  • Lunch on Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Monorail
    • `Monorail!  The original, but a shadow of its cousin(s) in Florida
  • Monsters, Inc.
    • The wait for this was 45 minutes, and they seemed to be having trouble as the line moved very slowly.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • We waited an hour for this one.  It was in the former Tower of Terror, which I did not realize until we were about to board the carriage.  I had previously avoided that “ride”, but my body handled it much better than I expected it would.  Not sure I’ll ever do it again, though.
  • Soarin’
    • 40 minute wait for Amanda and me while Kevin nursed a sore knee.
  • Cars Land
    • We just walked around Cars Land but I honestly could have spent most of a day there just sitting on a bench and taking it all in.
  • Pixar Pier
    • This was the end of our day and we were tired.  I would very much like to return and explore this area of the park more thoroughly.

We said our goodbyes to Kevin at about 8:30 and made our way to the car and drove to the hour or so to the rental car return at LAX (airport).  We boarded the bus provided by the rental car agency and were on our way to the airport.  We got close, and then just basically sat there for about an hour giving encouragement to our beleaguered driver who was clawing and earning every inch she could as traffic came to a standstill about a mile from the drop off loop.  Drivers in L.A., by and large, seemingly 1) are all beginner drivers, 2) have no idea where they are or where they are going, 3) have little to no respect for other drivers.  The result is frequent gridlock.  As soon as the driver got to the first terminal where she could safely and responsibly open the doors we all got off.  Amanda and I still had plenty of time but did not want to chance it.  We walked all the way to our terminal; this after having walked 11 miles already at the theme parks.  We checked in, made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare and waited for our flight.  We boarded and took off without incident and arrived at JFK earlier than scheduled.  As I write this we are sitting in JFK waiting for our flight which we have been informed has been delayed by about an hour.  With any luck we will be home in Potsdam by 6:00pm or so.

We are exhausted.  I think I said it before: Vacations are great!  But traveling sucks.  Our “vacation” was shrunk from what was supposed to be 5 full days to only 3 due to weather and the fallout from our flight being cancelled.  Yay.

Oh, and did I mention that when we get home we’ll have no hot water?  The boiler died on Thursday while we were on our way to L.A. and apparently nobody stocks parts anymore and so we are at the mercy of Cornerstone Services, who services the boiler we rent from Liberty Utilities.  If we are lucky, the part will arrive tomorrow (Tuesday). Who knows when it will be installed! This will likely be fodder for a separate rant/blog post.  But right now I’m just too damn tired.

Spring Vacation 2023 – Day 3

I set my alarm to get up in time to shower, get breakfast in the lobby at 7:00, and then head to the Burbank airport to hopefully sort out our return flight.  Amanda was already up and decided to accompany me.  The drive to the airport was only 10 minutes from our hotel and on a Saturday morning there wasn’t much traffic.  We got to the airport only to find no one at the JetBlue counter.  I inquired of another airline attendant and was informed that there usually isn’t someone there until 2 hours before a flight, but that I could call airport operations (yes, using the white courtesy phone) and ask them to page someone in case they might be somewhere else in the building.  I did so, but no one came, so we returned to the hotel.  I made a last stab at JetBlue by trying their online chat.  Still no change, but I was told that we could make a “same day” change to our reservation.  I said “same day” doesn’t do us much good if our flight leaves at 12:55am as we will already be at the airport and behind security by midnight!  “Unless,” I said, “‘same day’ means ‘within 24 hours’.”  She said that is what it means, and so I will set my alarm for 1:00am tonight and try one last time to get our flight changed.  

We headed down to Long Beach to meet up with Kevin and Ethan, Amanda’s step-brother.  We had lunch at Lucille’s followed by some browsing at the nearby Barnes & Noble.  After that we left Kevin and Ethan and continued on to Huntington Beach where we joined my cousin Alan Rowlson for drinks and conversation.  Alan is my first cousin once removed—a member of my parents’ generation.  We left Alan and headed to the home of Jane and John.  Jane is Alan’s ex-wife and mother to Jason, my second cousin.  We enjoyed their company along with Jason and his wife, Linda, and their children, Rex and Lucy.  Jane, a Peru, NY native, made us Michigans!

We then headed back to Glendale—a trip that took far longer than it should because, well, this is L.A.!  I said it the first time I was ever here and it’s still true: If New York is the city that never sleeps, L.A. is the city that never gets where it’s going.  Amanda joined her Dad to go see a movie while I stayed in our hotel room to relax, feeling a little drained.  As I type this it is after 1:00am and I am waiting in the online chat with JetBlue to see if we can get our flight rescheduled.

UPDATE: We’ll, the alternate flight we wanted is now sold out.  The only other option is flying from a different airport (ONT) overnight Monday into Tuesday and enduring an 8-hour layover at JFK.  That and arranging to drop the rental car off at a different location than where we picked it up.

Vacations are great.  Traveling sucks.

Spring Vacation 2023 – Day 2

Yesterday we landed at LAX, got our rental car, and headed to our hotel in Glendale: Embassy Suites by Hilton.  It’s surprisingly reasonably priced, considering the location and the amenities which include made to order breakfast every morning and a late afternoon reception in the lobby with an open bar!  After getting settled, Amanda’s Dad Kevin joined us and we walked a few blocks to the All India Café.  I ordered lamb vindaloo which is a favorite of mine.  Halfway through I saw what looked to be a green bean.  I shrugged and popped it in my mouth, biting down on it, chewing, and swallowing.  About a minute later I realized that it must not have been a green bean, because my mouth felt like I had taken the hottest chicken wing I had ever eaten and then poured some acid on it and then ate it.  I started gluing my beer just as the waitress walked by.  I pointed furiously at my mouth while waving my hand in a fanning motion.  She quickly went to the kitchen and came back with a bowl of rice pudding, followed by some yogurt.  The fire eventually went out, but I may not taste anything on that side of my mouth for days!  🙂

After walking back to the hotel we finished unpacking and went to bed.  This morning we met Kevin for breakfast at a place called Bea Bea’s where I had the most delicious egg Benedict I think I have ever had.  Amanda and I walked back to the hotel, then left to pick up Kevin and we drove north to Santa Clarita and visited the Vasquez Rocks.  

This was something of a pilgrimage/bucket list item for me, as the Vasquez Rocks are rather iconic and have been used as the backdrop for many movies and TV show episodes, not the least of which is the original Star Trek series of which I am a huge fan.


After visiting the interpretive center, we went to Maginn’s Irish Pub for lunch.  Maginn’s is owned by my cousin Chris Rowlson’s sister in-law and I thought it would be fun to stop in.  Sadly, the server we got did not know Chris, but the food and the beer were delicious!  I had bangers and champs with Smithwick red ale.

We made our way back to Glendale for an afternoon rest.  As a follow up to Wednesday, you’ll recall that we re-booked our flights out of Syracuse.  There were two return flights for Monday: one at about 12:30am and one at around 12:30pm.  I did not notice that we got booked on the 12:30am return flight!  I called the airline to see about getting switched to the 12:30pm flight.  The nice lady who answered tried to help me, but the system was not cooperating with her and the best she could do was to make the switch, but it would cost us $1400!!  I thanked her for trying and have decided that tomorrow morning I will get up early and drive to the Burbank airport where JetBlue has a presence and talk to someone in person to see if we can get the flight switched.  It won’t be the end of the world if we can’t, but we are spending all day Sunday at Disney Land, and having to fly at 12:30am probably will mean cutting that day shorter than we otherwise might have, which would be too bad.

So after that we picked up Kevin again and headed to Hollywood where we saw the original Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit.  It was amazing!  I took a few 360 photos and got 360 video of the whole thing.  I can’t wait to see how it came out.  After Van Gogh we went to Ovation Hollywood, a new-ish shopping complex on Hollywood Boulevard.  This whole area is L.A.’s answer to New York’s Times Square.  There are all manner of shops and restaurants and street food and street performers.  And tourists—lots of tourists!  Kevin had bought tickets for the Icons of Darkness exhibit which is a fascinating curation of original production-used costumes.  It is a guided tour with some jump scares.  We took lots of photos!  After Icons, we had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then returned to Glendale for the night.


Spring Vacation 2023 – Off to a Rocky Start

Amanda and I planned a short vacation. The principal motivation is to visit her Dad in Los Angeles.  The fact that there’s a midnight showing of “Xanadu” at the Turner Classic Movie Festival this coming weekend may or may not have had something to do with the dates we selected.  We hope to visit some cousins of mine as well.

We booked a non-stop flight from Buffalo.  We did not want to chance missing a connecting flight.  It’s happened to us before and we know it’s no fun.  We booked flights leaving on Wednesday of this week and returning overnight Monday arriving early Tuesday morning.  Tuesday after work we drove to Rochester to stay with Amanda’s Mom and step-Dad.  We spent Wednesday morning with them and left for Buffalo in plenty of time, arriving at the airport 3 hours before our flight.  If something was going to go wrong, it wasn’t going to be because of us! 

Something went wrong.

At first we didn’t know what it was.  Our flight got delayed.  Fine.  It happens.  We didn’t really care.  We weren’t in a hurry.  We could get there whenever.  And there was no connecting flight to miss, right?  The flight got delayed again.  And again.  And again.  Free snacks showed up at the gate counter.  That was nice.  Then I overheard someone use the C-word: “Cancel”.  I had found a site on the internet that not only showed the status of our flight, but it showed where our plane was coming from: Fort Lauderdale, FL.  It hadn’t even left yet which is why we were delayed.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Ft. Lauderdale was getting hammered with rain, and they eventually closed the airport; which cancelled the flight from Florida and thus cancelled ours as well as there was now no plane for us to board and there wasn’t going to be one.

Everyone lined up for accommodations.  We waited in line almost 2 hours while the nice gate attendants processed everyone.  8 sheet pizzas showed up as we waited.  Everyone was disappointed, but no one was really upset.  I was pleasantly surprised by that!  I spent some of the time looking up other flights and scenarios.  When we got to the counter we asked about an early flight out of Syracuse the following morning (today).  After some back and forth and a phone call to the home office they were able to make it work.  We made our way back to our car and drove the 2 hours back to Syracuse checking in to a hotel right outside the airport entrance at 12:30am.  We got up at 5:00am and went straight to the airport, got some breakfast, and made our new flight to JFK in New York.  As I type this we are halfway to Los Angeles, having made our connecting flight with plenty of time to spare.

This was completely out of Jet Blue’s control.  It made me realize the folly of trying to plan air travel.  There are so many variables it’s a logistical miracle that anything gets anywhere on time.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a tendency to (arrogantly?) assume that when I travel I’m the only one doing so and that once I’ve bought my tickets the entire system is brought to bear exclusively to serve me.  If I decide to leave from Buffalo, well, then there will be a plane at Buffalo just ready for me to board, right?  Because why wouldn’t there be?  Even if I were the sort who looked at weather reports and who knows what else when trying to decide which flight to take from where, it never would have occurred to me to wonder where the plane I would be boarding would be coming from.  I mean, they just sort of materialize out of thin air at the gate when I’m ready to board…right??  Nope.  Travel planning is a crap shoot on a good day.  Yesterday we lost.  Today has been better.  We’ll see how it goes next week when it’s time to come home.